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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 5

Verses 1-30

Isaiah 5:1 . My well-beloved; the Messiah, who certainly was Lord of the Vineyard, and the men of Judah were his pleasant plants. Psalms 80:14-19.80.15. Ezekiel 17:6. Hosea 10:1. Matthew 20:1-40.20.16. They were a people whom he cultivated, and with whom he delighted as a garden. To understand this vineyard of a fruitful horn is diverting enough; for a horn, like a mountain, is elevated. So Dr. Lowth, for two pages; and so Erasmus makes us merry in his battle of grammarians.

Isaiah 5:2 . The choicest vine; literally, the vine of Sorek, a valley not far distant from Eshcol, from which the spies brought the large clusters and branches of the vine. A wine-press. Mystically understood of the atoning altar, as the pleasant hill and the tower are understood of the temple.

Isaiah 5:10 . A homer shall yield an ephah; just one tenth of what was sown.

Isaiah 5:11 . Strong drink. The LXX, σικερα , wine made from the nuts of the date, or palmtree. See Exodus 15:27. We have this passage more at large in Amos 6:3-30.6.6. Dr. Lowth here quotes Pliny, who says that strong drink means palm wine.

Isaiah 5:14 . Hell opened her mouth, as a wide cavern. See on Psalms 9:17; Psalms 16:10.

Isaiah 5:18 . That draw sin as with a cart rope. This simile is so unnatural that we suspect a mistake. The LXX, “a long rope.” This idea indicates a long continuance in wine, and long continuance in vice, which bears away and overpowers the whole force of public morals. Others say, the punishment of sin as a load on their conscience.

Isaiah 5:25 . Their carcases torn in the streets, with dogs, it might seem: but the LXX more naturally say, as dung in the streets. This was fulfilled when the Chaldeans filled the streets with the slain. Ezekiel 11:6.

Isaiah 5:26 . He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far; as is repeated, chap. 10:5. Ho to the Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, the staff of my indignation, &c.


From this elegiac song of the vineyard, which our Saviour seemed to utter over Jerusalem, we learn that God took great delight in Israel. The temple was his palace, the people were his family, and the whole land his favourite garden. He fenced it round with a wall; yea, his cloud which awed the Egyptians, was a wall of fire which no invader could pass, unless he first gave him a commission to punish apostasy. The heavenly owner digged out the stones, removed both the Canaanites and their idols, and planted it with a choice vine. His church, his statutes and ordinances, were in the midst of them. Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, and others were flourishing branches of this church. His winepress or sacred altar was in the midst of it, and thence flowed all the reviving ministry of the holy prophets.

We have the disappointment of the divine expectation, if we may speak after the manner of men. When God looked for rich clusters, he found nothing but wild, bad, or putrid grapes, such as resembled Jeremiah’s naughty figs: Isaiah 24:2. Instead of love, there were bitterness and wrath; instead of piety, there was a contempt of his easy yoke; instead of holiness, sin of every kind abounded in the land.

As Nathan made David the judge in the case of the ewe lamb, so the Lord now makes the men of Judah judges in the case of his vineyard. How terrible then is the state of apostate and wicked men, when their own conscience shall be the first to give sentence against them. How silent, how speechless will they be at the bar of God.

This silence of the wicked farther appears from the grand question, What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done? Could purer statutes, could better prophets, and a happier diversity of mercies and judgments have been extended towards it? The Lord might have put the same question, before the Romans finally destroyed Jerusalem. God may put the same question to every sinner; and perhaps the day is not distant when God shall put the same question to Britain. And alas, if he take away our hedge, being revolted at our bitter fruits of sin; where will the despisers of his gospel find a refuge!

Isaiah improves the vision by calling every class of sinners to repentance. The covetous who live to augment estates, the drunkards who waste their substance, and the circles of pleasure who draw iniquity with long ropes of vanity and lies. He pressed repentance the more, for he saw hell enlarging her jaws to swallow the wicked; and he beheld the Lord beckoning to nations from afar, to come and avenge his quarrel with the sword.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.